When I dressed up as Pippi Longstocking for Purim as a junior in high school, I knew I had discovered something special. And it wasn’t just in the thrill of wearing mismatched knee-high socks.
Pippi Longstocking, created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, provided a new definition of female strength. A sea-captain’s daughter, Pippi and her father get caught in a storm and her father goes overboard. Pippi waits for her father’s return at her home: Villa Villekulla (pronounced Villa Villa Coola). She lives with her monkey and her horse, but without adults.
I grew up fascinated by the animated movie (1997) where this red haired child knew no social constraints, lived life shouting with joy, had the strength to pick up her horse (literally. She has unexplained super strength.) and all the while remained at heart a vulnerable child. As a junior in high school, my heroes were the muscled men of Dragon Ball Z. I desired the gritty, physical strength of beating an opponent. But rekindling my childhood love of Pippi reminded me that strength does not lie in conquering others. When I stumbled upon my childhood favorite film, I rediscovered that women could be both physically and mentally strong without having to prove it through physical violence.
Pippi lives each day as an adventure she doesn’t plan to miss. In the opening to the film, she sings, “I am the sea and nobody owns me.” Before I would even begin to call myself a feminist, I was writing this phrase again and again as a mantra into my journal: nobody owns me. What could be more feminist than claiming ownership over your actions and desires? What better lesson can we teach young girls?
Pippi is magic. She has no love interest. She is not a child version of a manic-pixie-dream-girl. Her joy and her exuberance is for her. But what further strikes me is that the film knows Pippi cannot be joyous one-hundred percent of the time. Particularly in the quiet moments at night, waiting for her father’s return, I love her all the more. She has hope that her father survived. She has hope that all loneliness can be conquered. At her core, Pippi holds strength and vulnerability.